Kreed Kleinkopf
April 11, 2024

Are Weight Loss Drugs Like Ozempic Addictive?

Ozempic is one of the most talked about prescription medications in recent history. Its reputation extends far beyond its original purpose of managing type 2 diabetes. More people now use Ozempic as an anti-obesity medication. According to research, higher doses of Ozempic may induce weight loss, especially when combined with healthy lifestyle interventions.

Despite this, many people who lose weight tend to gain most of it back when they discontinue the drug. That's because the effects reverse quickly. Stopping Ozempic causes:

  • Increased cravings and appetite
  • Spikes in blood sugar
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular issues
  • Not feeling full even after eating a lot
  • Weight gain

People who want to shed weight might need to keep using Ozempic in high dosages. With the imminent Ozempic withdrawal, there are concerns about whether this and other weight loss medications cause addiction. In this article, we will look at how these drugs work and whether or not they are habit-forming.

Understanding Ozempic

Ozempic is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medication for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. It belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists. When you inject Ozempic, it activates the GLP-1 receptors in your body. This prompts your pancreas to release insulin when your blood sugar is high, which helps lower your blood sugar levels. It also slows down the speed at which your stomach empties, which helps to reduce your appetite and can lead to weight loss. 

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Note that Ozempic is usually administered as part of a holistic plan that includes diet, exercise, and possibly other diabetes medications. 

Ozempic and Weight Loss

The FDA first approved Ozempic for treating diabetes in 2017 and semiglutide for obesity in 2021 under the brand name Wegovy. Since then, there has been a huge demand for Wegovy as more people are trying to attain a healthy weight. Today, about 42% of US adults are obese, and about 65% say willpower alone is not enough to lose and maintain a healthy weight. When you put these two factors together, you realize why weight loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy are very popular.

Clinical data show that Wegovy is the most common weight loss medication. After just one year, people taking the drug lost 15% of their weight compared to 2.5% weight loss among those who take an inactive pill. But besides Wegovy, there are other weight loss pills that actually work. These include Zepbound, Qsymia, Saxenda, and Contrave. In 2021, about 2 million people in the US were taking semiglutide diet pills to manage weight.

Is Ozempic Habit-Forming?

Weight loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy are not typically considered habit-forming in the same way that drugs of abuse, such as opioids or stimulants, are. Therefore, they're not known to cause physical addiction in the traditional sense.

However, some people may develop a psychological dependence on Ozempic, particularly if they have experienced significant weight loss while using the medication. They may feel anxious or reluctant to discontinue the drug for fear of weight regain. However, this dependence is not the same as addiction and can be managed with appropriate medical guidance and support.


It's advisable to use Ozempic under the care of a health care provider. They will offer guidance on lifestyle modifications, monitor for potential side effects, and provide strategies for managing any concerns related to dependence or discontinuation of the medication.

Who Can Use Ozempic?

Ozempic (semaglutide) is primarily indicated for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus in adults. However, it has also been shown to have cardiovascular benefits and can help lower high blood pressure and dyslipidemia. You are not to use Ozempic if you or a close family member has a history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2). These conditions are associated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer, and Ozempic may exacerbate this risk.

Weight Loss Drugs and Addiction Treatment

The latest weight loss medications don't cause addiction. In fact, reports show that drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic can actually dampen the urge to drink, smoke, and even bite their nails. Clinical trials and research are underway to determine the exact mechanism through which these drugs exert their anti-addictive effects. But several theories have been suggested.

One theory says that the drugs regulate dopamine release and, therefore, reduce the pleasurable effects of substances and motivation to use them. Besides, GLP-1 receptors are also found in the brain region linked to motivation and reward. These brain receptors play a crucial role in addiction. Ozempic can regulate these receptors and influence the reward system, thereby minimizing the reinforcing effects of alcohol and drugs.


History of Weight Loss Drugs

In the past, weight loss drugs were not as safe as they are today. In the 1930s, many weight loss medications were formulated with potent and hazardous substances, notably amphetamines and other stimulants.

These drugs were intended to help people want to diet and gave pleasure not found on a plate. But they came with significant risks, including addiction, tolerance, and adverse cardiovascular effects. Amphetamines used for weight loss were largely discontinued in the 1970s with the "war on drugs.”

Other drugs like Fen-phen made an entry in the 1980s and 90s but were discontinued after lung and heart valve disease cases arose. Leptin also had a brief moment in the mid-1990s and ephedra in the 1990s and 2000s but was later stopped. Ephedra, a chemical found in drugs like Dexatrim ("mommy speed") was banned after it was linked to heart issues like seizures, heart attacks, strokes, and deaths.

Today, we have the likes of Ozempic and Wegovy, which are mostly safe. And while these have been shown to have incredible health benefits, they are not miracle drugs. Again, many people are using drugs like Ozempic in ways that are not intended for. Some are getting it online, while others are finding physicians who can prescribe them "off-label."

If this trend continues, people may associate Ozempic with "vanity" and not as an essential drug for people with diabetes.

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